ARMENIA* (25 March)
The 1998 cereal and pulse harvest is officially estimated at 326 000 tonnes, including some 240 tonnes of wheat. The outlook for the current wheat crop remains uncertain as winterkill could be greater than last year. In the North Caucasus region, however, the outlook for winter wheat has improved somewhat. The country is mobilizing high-grade seed for spring planting.
The cereal import requirement in 1998/99 is estimated at about 342 000 tonnes. Against this requirement, food aid pledges of 50 000 tonnes have been reported to date and the balance would have to be imported commercially. Despite the economic crisis in the Russian Federation, GDP growth remained a robust 6 percent in 1998 and is also expected to remain positive this year. However, as extended family support and private remittances play an important role in survival, household vulnerability has increased owing to the loss of such remittances, and the return of expatriate workers from Russia. Hence, there is little scope at present for phasing out humanitarian assistance for the most vulnerable. WFP will therefore continue to provide food assistance to refugees and IDPs as well as to the most vulnerable amongst the local population. In addition to humanitarian assistance food will also be provided through food for work programmes. The programme will be reviewed annually and be for a duration of three years.
AZERBAIJAN (25 March)
The early outlook for 1999 grain production is satisfactory. But increased difficulty in importing essential inputs could keep output close to last year's poor 1 million tonnes, including some 900 000 tonnes of wheat. In the current marketing year, the cereal import requirement is estimated at 565 000 tonnes. Food aid deliveries, for distribution to the vulnerable populations, amount to 18 000 tonnes of grain and the balance is likely to be imported commercially. GDP continued to grow in 1998, but growth will be slower in 1999 as the fallout of the Russian financial crisis coupled with low oil prices affect the economy. Vulnerable populations, including a large proportion of the 12 percent of the populations which is still displaced as a result of the unresolved dispute over Nagorno Karabakh, will continue to require humanitarian assistance. WFP will continue its current programme in support of the most vulnerable IDPs, while income generation activities will be expanded. The programme will be reviewed annually and has a tentative duration of three to five years.
BELARUS (25 March)
Growing conditions for 1999 winter grains have been mostly satisfactory to date. However, yields could remain below average due to difficulties in mobilizing inputs in the current economic situation. Although winter wheat area (for harvest in 1999) is reported to have increased by a further 10 percent, there is a significant backlog of autumn fieldwork. All regions have been ordered to increase the minimum area sown to grain by up to 20 percent this year. The extent to which farmers can comply realistically, and still obtain reasonable yields, will depend heavily on the availability of central government subsidies and adequate and timely availability of inputs The 1999 grain production target of 7 million tonnes may not be achieved.
Following the poor 1998 grain harvest (officially estimated at 4.9 million tonnes), the country has to import at least 300 000 tonnes of foodgrains. Aggregate cereal imports in 1998/99 are expected to fall to about 500 000 tonnes, as foreign exchange constraints limit feedgrain imports. Price controls on many basic foodstuffs have led to chronic shortages of eggs, butter, oil and bread in shops. Small- scale household production of basic foodstuffs, which accounts for between one fifth and one third of household income, provide an important buffer for food security.
GEORGIA* (25 march)
The outlook for 1999 winter crops, mainly wheat and barley remains satisfactory and output could recover somewhat from last year's low level (230 000 tonnes) due to crop damage following high windstorms. However, disruption in trade with the Russian Federation and increased difficulty in mobilizing inputs as well as lack of adequate maintenance of irrigation and drainage systems are likely to keep average yields low.
In the 1998/99 marketing year the country is expected to import about 0.6 million tonnes of cereals, mainly wheat. Food aid pledges to date amount to nearly 130 000 tonnes and the balance is likely to be imported commercially. The country is self sufficient in maize.
KAZAKHSTAN (25 March)
The 1999 crop year is expected to be difficult. Farm credit, is scarcer than last year and farmers' ability to barter inputs has been affected by the poor harvest last year. The situation has also been compounded by the disruption to trade and marketing following the financial crisis in the Russian Federation. The bulk of 1999 grains will not be planted until May. The aggregate area to be sown to grains is forecast to fall to 12.2 million hectares, including 10 million hectares of wheat. This compares to reported sowings of 13.5 and 10.7 million hectares respectively last year. However, as only 11.3 and 9.1 million hectares respectively were harvested, the 1999 grain harvest could recover from last year's poor level of 7.3 million tonnes, provided the weather is better and planting targets are met. (As farmers are pressured to plant grain, the areas sown tend to be over-reported). The minor winter grain crop (mainly wheat) is still dormant. Some 0.7 million hectares were planted, 6 percent less than in the preceding year. After many years of inadequate herbicide use, weed growth is reported to be a major problem this year.
The 1998 grain harvest is now estimated by FAO at about 7.3 million tonnes, some 42 percent less than in 1997 in response to economic problems and dry weather. Carryover stocks could enable the country to export up to 1.9 million tonnes of cereals in 1998/99. By December 1998 some 1.4 million tonnes had already been shipped. Following the collapse of the Russian rouble and the sharp fall in the exchange rates of currencies of many neighbouring countries, the government has banned the inflow of Russian food products and imposed duties of 200 percent on food imports from neighbouring Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Import duties on sugar and meat are to be increased in April.
KYRGYZ REPUBLIC (24 March)
A law which will enable private citizens to buy, sell and use land as collateral has been passed and is expected to be implemented by mid-1999. Agricultural production, which accounts for about 50 percent of GDP, increased by 2 percent in 1998. Full land privatization is expected to result in rapid growth in the sector.
The current outlook for the 1999 winter wheat crop remains satisfactory. Indications are that the shift from grain to industrial (tobacco, sugarbeet and cotton) and other foodcrops will continue this year. The 1998 cereal harvest is officially estimated at about 1. 62 million tonnes, cleaned weight, compared to 1.7 million in 1997. Following the sharp increase in recent years and reduced profitability for this crop, wheat production in 1998 declined by 6 percent 1.29 million tonnes.
Cereal imports in 1998/99 are tentatively forecast at around 145 000 tonnes including food aid pledges amounting to 56 000 tonnes. The country also exports grain to neighbouring Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
MOLDOVA (25 March)
Winter grains (mainly wheat and barley) are emerging from dormancy and the current outlook is mostly satisfactory. The aggregate 1998 grain harvest is officially estimated at 2.7 million tonnes, against 3.3 million tonnes last year. Production of wheat (1 million tonnes) and barley (225 000 tonnes) was below average, reflecting dry conditions and low profitability.
With ample domestic supplies and carry-forward stocks, no significant commercial imports of cereals are expected in the 1998/99 marketing year (July/June). The high cost of production makes exports uncompetitive at current prices.
RUSSIAN FEDERATION (26 March)
Current indications suggest that 1999 grain and pulse production is expected to recover from last year's extremely low level (estimated at 55 million tonnes by FAO) but to remain below average. Given normal weather, yields could recover from last year's drought-affected levels. Farmers are also expected to increase grain area as it provides an inflation-proof means of payment. However, the economic situation in the country and on farm is expected to make the mobilization of the necessary inputs even more difficult than in preceding years, despite special programmes being devised by the government to assist farmers. The bulk of inputs will have to be mobilized by barter and resources from last year's poor harvest are limited. Economic difficulties in the autumn resulted in a 4 percent drop in the area sown to winter crops, and of the 13 million hectares sown, crops are now reported to be in a poor condition on 1.6-2 million hectares. There is a large backlog of autumn field work to be completed in spring. Spring grain plantings are targeted at 38 million hectares. However, with plantings only just starting in the extreme south, it is too early to judge if the target will be achieved. At this early stage FAO tentatively forecasts the1999 grain harvest at 65 million tonnes, including some 33 million tonnes of wheat (1998:30) and 30 million tonnes of coarse grains, unchanged from last year.
Following last year's poor harvest, the overall food supply situation is not critical but stocks are being drawn down sharply and feedgrains are reported to be short supply. However, at the forecast level, this is inadequate to meet current domestic demand, estimated at about 70 million tonnes per annum. The outlook is for the grain supply situation to remain tight also in 1999/2000. The price of food quality wheat has doubled since May 1998 and that of feed barley has increased even more. However, at US$87 and US$57 per tonne, they remain well below international prices. The differential between domestic and international prices for grain has resulted in exports of about 1.3 million tonnes up to February 1999. The governments have banned the signature of new export contracts for grains, but grain will continue to be shipped against contracts already signed.
Despite the poor harvest, cereal imports in 1998/99 are not expected to exceed 3.5 million tonnes, the same as 1997/98. The country has received food aid pledges amounting to 3.8 million tonnes of grain (as well as meat, dairy and soybean products). The first food aid shipments have just arrived and the bulk of the shipments (not rolled over to 1999/2000) should arrive in the lean season before the 1999 harvest, when the aggregate supply situation could tighten.
People in remote and disadvantaged areas are experiencing hardship as a result of steady economic stagnation, the reliance on increasingly expensive imports of food, and sharply reduced purchasing power. This year, the situation is worse partly because reprovisioning in the summer months was disrupted by the financial crisis and partly as the cost of transport, without subsidies central government subsidies, is prohibitively high. The most vulnerable socio-economic groups, pensioners, orphans, the unemployed and households dependent on public salaries are also experiencing difficulties, especially in large, depressed industrial cities.
TAJIKISTAN* (29 February)
Agricultural production on large state farms continues to decline but supply is buffered by production on lands farmed privately or leased from the state. In December 1998 a law was passed allocating another 28 000 hectares for private use. This is too late to effectively plant winter grains. Nevertheless, the outlook for the 1999 wheat crop is satisfactory so far and, given normal weather, the 1999 cereal harvest could be somewhat higher than the 510 000 tonnes estimated for 1998.
The cereal import requirement for 1998/99 (July/June) is tentatively estimated at about 370 000 tonnes of wheat and some rice. Food aid pledges amount to some 52 000 tonnes to date. The balance will have to be mobilized commercially, mainly in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
GDP growth was positive in 1998, but the outlook for this year may be affected by low export prices of aluminium and cotton and repercussions of the economic crisis in the Russian Federation. An appeal was launched in December 1998 for a total of US$24.8 million, to respond to the humanitarian and rehabilitation needs of over half a million vulnerable people during 1999. The appeal includes projects to enhance basic food production and food security as well as food for the populations at risk.
TURKMENISTAN (29 March)
To date, the outlook for winter grains, on some 570 000 hectares, remains satisfactory. The 1999 production target has been raised to 1.4 million tonnes. Official data indicate that the 1998 grain harvest of 1.24 million tonnes was on target and nearly double 1997. In addition, the area to be sown to sugar is targeted to triple. Reduced export earnings from cotton and gas over several years have severely limited foreign exchange earnings and input availability. The country aims to increase grain and cotton production, to reduce import bills and increase export potential. In view of a good grain production, cereal imports in 1998/99 could fall to about 50 000 tonnes, mainly wheat and some rice.
THE UKRAINE (28 March)
Better growing conditions are expected to result in higher grain production than last year's drought reduced 29.5 million tonnes. (FAO estimate). However economic problems - in 1998 92 percent of farms reportedly operated at a loss and a sharp contraction in the availability of imported inputs are expected to keep yields low. At the start of the spring planting season, the deliveries of inputs mobilized domestically or in the neighbouring countries (fuel) were also sharply down.
Spring grain planting is underway in southern areas. Officially, the aggregate area to be sown to grains for harvest in 1999 is expected to remain fairly stable at 14.5 million hectares. In 1998, however, grains were harvested from only 12.7 million hectares, and current indications are that in 1999 the area for harvest could be somewhat larger. Of the area sown to winter grains (estimated at about 7.4 million hectares) less than 1 million hectares is expected to require reseeding. Fertilizer applications were very limited as suppliers are further tightening credit conditions and raising already high prices. Given normal weather conditions, 1999 grain production is tentatively projected at 32.5 million tonnes, some 3 million tonnes more than last year. Output of wheat could increase by at least 1 million tonnes to reach 18 million tonnes and that of coarse grains could increase by nearly 2 million tonnes to 13.5 million tonnes, if the expected shift to barley this spring occurs. With the bulk of coarse grains still to be planted, these forecasts are highly tentative Farmers' practice of hiding substantial quantities of marketable grain in response to the official prohibitions on grain shipments until all debts to the budget and pension fund add further uncertainty to forecast and supply analysis. Despite the lower harvest, the country is likely to export up to 3.5 million tonnes of cereals in the current marketing year. By February 1999, 2.9 million tonnes had already been shipped.
UZBEKISTAN (28 March)
In response to economic and foreign exchange problems, due to low production and international prices of cotton and the repercussions of the crisis in the Russian Federation, the government has announced higher agricultural production targets. Grain production is now targeted at 5.3 million tonnes, compared to the estimated 4.3 million tonnes harvested in 1998. The cotton target is 4.0 million tonnes (1998:3.2), and potatoes 0.8 million tonnes (1998: 0.75). The grain production target is unlikely to be realized this year, as the bulk of grains were sown in the autumn. Achievement of the goals for the other crops will depend crucially on the availability of inputs and better incentives for farmers.
The outlook for the 1999 grain harvest remains satisfactory, provided the fertility of irrigated areas is maintained. In the state sector, wheat and barley was sown in a timely fashion, on 1.3 million hectares, including 1 million hectares of irrigated land on the large farms. In addition, the rural population has to plant additional area on private plots, where yields are increasing at a faster rate than on large farms. The target for winter grain production in 1999 had previously been set at 4.6 million tonnes, including 4.0 million tonnes (3.8 million tonnes of wheat) from large farms and the balance from private plots. This compares with an estimated output of 3.8 million tonnes of wheat and barley in 1998. In addition, the country produced roughly 0.5 million tonnes of maize and rice, bringing total 1998 grain production to 4.3 million. Imports are being reduced to maintain a positive trade balance, but the 1998/99 cereal deficit, tentatively estimated at about 530 000 tonnes is expected to be imported commercially.